Ma Braun and Rie Mastebroek will be looking down with a heavenly smile on the Dutch squad today: 1936 was the last time the Orange order lifted the Olympic 4x100m freestyle crown.
Inge Dekker (54.37), Ranomi Kromowidjojo (53.39), Femke Heemskerk (53.42) and Marleen Veldhuis (52.58) added up to a 3:33.76 Olympic record. "To say we are happy would be an understatement," said Veldhuis. The quartet missed the world record they set at the European Championships in Eindhoven in March by just 0.14sec.
"We knew we had to explode into the water and see what happens," Veldhuis said. "We were hoping to win it, but we never expected to win like that." The man who had much to do with preparing for victory is coach Jacco Verhaeren, and when a coach gets one preparation right, he often gets the whole squad right. So watch for that tantalising prospect of a third 100m free crown for Pieter van den Hoogenband later in the week.
The Dutch quartet won bronze behind Australia in Athens and silver in 1932, 1952, 1984, 1988 and 2000 Olympics.
In 1936 it was gold and the star of the pool at the Reichsportsfeld complex in Nazi Germany was Mastenbroek, coached by Braun. At 15, she was a triple gold medallist (100m, 400m and 4x100m freestyle) and took silver in the 100m backstroke, 0.3sec behind teammate Dina Senff. Those successes marked a downturn in fortunes of the previously dominant USA: until Mastenbroek, every 100m, 400m and 4x100m title since 1920 had gone to American women, while Berlin marked the first time since 1912 that an American woman failed to win a gold medal at the Games.
An unlikely scenario in 2008.